The coming Republican bloodbath?

Stu Rothenberg has joined the chorus of prognosticators predicting Republicans will win the Senate majority in November. In many ways, that’s irrelevant because of three incumbent governors.  Polls show tight races for Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Rick Scott in Florida, and Rick Snyder in Michigan; Sam Brownback in Kansas isn’t blowing the doors off his challenger, either.

The importance of these seats goes beyond the fact that the states tend to be close in Presidential years; in his own way, each of the four governors has enacted reforms that make a real-world case for conservative policies. The mantra that “Republicans have to be FOR something!” is tired but very true. Each of these incumbents has enacted policies that have improved their respective states. Losses in any one state could wash away years of real progress, and it might make Republicans in other states suddenly reticent to push a reform agenda.

There are other conservative reformers out there who either aren’t up for reelection this year or who don’t have a serious opponent. These tight races will be a good electoral test for policies which have, so far, been effective. That means even more to the Republican Party than who runs the Senate in 2015.

(In the interest of disclosure, the firm I work for has done work for Walker, Scott, and Snyder and for party committees in the respective states – but as should be patently obvious, no inside information was used in linking to those publicly available polls.)

Reacting to the Bachmann Reaction

Yesterday at PunditLeague, I argued that Michelle Bachmann’s “Tea Party Response” to the President’s State of Union address would not detract from Paul Ryan’s official Republican response.  In practice, Bachmann’s response was actually better than Ryan’s – not because of content (Ryan did as well as he could have done), but because of style.

Despite Bachmann’s shortcomings as a speaker, her speech varied from typical State of the Union responses by including charts and images as visual aids.  Ryan’s turn as a talking head was traditional, but less dynamic.  As Brit Hume observed on Fox News last night, replying to the grandeur of the President’s address is difficult; it means sitting in a room with no audience, no applause, and no chance to speak in booming tones in front of an austere chamber.  Bachmann did better in the empty room by simply filling it with something besides her.  Granted, the charts could have looked better and could have included better visual representations of the consequences of the Administration’s fiscal policies, but the still looked better than Ryan’s charts (which, again, didn’t exist).

Future responses to the State of the Union might consider a more carefully crafted presentation that the Max Headroom-style talking heads that have become typical.  The opposition’s annual reply is a rare chance to rebut the President before a national audience.  Bachmann may have rankled Republican leaders with her rogue response – but she might be on to something.

UPDATE: Something I missed entirely in Bachmann’s presentation was the fact that she was apparently staring into space.  I figured the video I saw (linked above, from PBS) simply had the camera positioned off to the side, and that Bachmann had another, main camera she was looking into.  Unless this was filmed in the Congresswoman’s basement, I assumed SOMEONE would have told her to look into the camera; I guess that’s what happens when I assume.

Obey your instincts

Rep. Dave Obey saw the writing on the wall.

Despite his stature as a political institution, he was facing an electorate that has soured not only on liberal policies that he has championed, but also on the concept of incumbency.

More important, his opponent was young, telegenic, and media-savvy – the perfect counter – and, more important, was drawing attention from beyond the district.  This is the second big story for Sean Duffy in a week, the first being his victory in Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s PAC endorsement contest.  Clearly, Duffy would have money and support coming from outside the district from a Republican infrastructure eager to find a fresh new face.

Despite the fact that he looked like a long shot on May 4, Duffy’s campaign had the chance to follow a similar arc to Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts.  Running against a senior ideologue from the other party, Duffy could have tightened the polls gradually over the summer and been in position to score a big upset with a late push of volunteers and money from across the country – think online money bombs and remote get-out-the-vote call centers.

All politics are still local – but when the right candidate uses the right technology, a whole lot of people can become local.